December 24, 2008
When I walked onto the field, a chill ran down my spine. I thought, "Here I am, a kid from Antioch [Calif.], near where Joe DiMaggio grew up, and I'm going to play in Yankee Stadium."
We'd heard [coach] Weeb Ewbank make a lot of pre-game speeches, some funny, some s - -, but this one was different. He looked at every player and said how no other team had wanted him. Then he said, "Now get out there and SHOW THEM!" I wish somebody had a copy of that.
In the second half, I rushed [ New York Giants quarterback] Charlie Conerly and came within a hair of sacking him. I mean, I was as close as you could get without hitting him. But he threw to Kyle Rote, who fumbled, and [Giants fullback] Alex Webster picked it up and ran to our 1-yard line. They scored, and our lead was 14-10. That made me mad.
I broke my right ankle late in the fourth quarter. Oh, did it hurt. If I hadn't been a man, I'd have cried. They put me on a stretcher and started to take me to the locker room, but I said, "Put me down - I want to see the game." Then we went to [sudden death] and the police made them take me down in case the game ended quickly and the fans rushed the field.
So I'm lying on a table in the training room and some kid is staying there with me, but I don't know what's going on because there's no radio or TV, nothing, and I'm trying to guess what's happening from the sounds of the crowd. And I'm thinking, Jeez, we were bad for so many years, and now we're in the championship and I can't even see the finish."
It seemed like forever. Then the door opens and [linebacker] Bill Pellington runs in and yells, "Hey, Gino, we're the champs!" My ankle felt much better then. Pretty soon Alan [Ameche] and John [Unitas] came over and gave me the game ball. I kept it for 20years, then gave it to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago. I had to look all over the house before I found the ball in the bottom of a closet.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun